Purpose of Connectors and Transitions

Learning Objectives

Explain the purpose of connectors and transitions in a speech.

We are used to processing information both visually and aurally. Class lectures often are accompanied by slide decks or outlines. When listening, we often take notes, writing the main ideas and important pieces of information in a way that helps us to organize and recall that information.

A roadsign which reads LOOKWhen listening to a speech, however, audience members rarely take notes and a good speaker does not rely on a slide deck to illustrate the outline of the presentation. Therefore, the audience loses the visual aspect of processing information. This loss creates the need for obvious, succinct, and repetitive audible organizational tools that the speaker can use to usher their audience through their presentation. The general rule of a presentation is tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you’ve said.

Take a moment to consider the characteristics of effective audible organizational tools. To do so, imagine that you are driving on a road trip. The first thing you would do is preview your route to get an understanding of how long the drive should be, the general direction you will be moving, and any major towns or cities you will drive through. If you try to include too many details in this general route, you likely wouldn’t remember it—so you only want to note the overview.

Then, while driving you will need to recognize any signs that indicate exits, merges, street names, speed limit changes, etc., so that you can take the action you need to. These signs need to be clearly visible and easy to understand at a glance so that you can keep moving. It’s also helpful to see confirmation of the road or direction from time to time to ensure that you are going the right way. Similarly, the organizational tools you provide in your speech should be easy to identify and follow for your audience.

Obvious: The audience should be able to easily identify that they are hearing a preview, transition, or review.

Succinct: Just like a road sign, the organizational tools should be very brief, simple, and clear.

Repeated: The same words should be used to preview, review, and transition as it will help the audience identify where they are in the speech.

There are two main goals of transitions, or connectors.

Goal #1: Connect Ideas

The bones and muscles of your outline may be solid, but presenting only your information to the audience may come off very choppy and abrupt as you move from one idea to another. Therefore, previews, reviews, transitions, and signposts work like connective tissue to help seamlessly move the focus of information from one idea to the next.

Goal #2: Help the Audience Follow Along

When reading, paragraph indentations, chapter breaks, and headings serve to help a reader organize and process information. In a speech, those visual cues are unavailable to your audience. Therefore, the speaker must create audible organizational cues to help the audience follow along, organize, and recall the information that they hear.

So, even though it may feel awkward and repetitive to so blatantly state previews, transitions, and summaries, it is necessary for a smooth presentation and to help your audience to process what they hear. In the next few pages, you’ll learn the different types of connectors and how to phrase them.

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